the spine is now a backwards S:

sinuous, serpentine, spongy,

soggy, drowning under water,

not serendipitous,

not a sinecure with a quick fix,

not erect at my unstrung cello,

not perpendicular at the untuned piano’s yellowing keys

the cat walks across at night

emboldened with the power of creating noise, not melody.

through the neck, the incision to scour decay’s long-fingered clutch.

cadaver bone from a bank somewhere and its own bone shards

beseeched to regrow,

re-bequeath composure

when the second foot lands on the stained carpet

from the dreamworld.

in time for the masquerade, only half tragedy.

look at me, I’m not dropping the martinis

I’ll pretend to like.

decompressed, letting its recalcitrant grasp of nerves go.

now I’m outside the body,

hovering above myself in the sky’s bold cloud-whispering.

the planes fly right through me.

the Arctic winds don’t cause any shivering.

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DIRGE XII, amplifications [9 dancers]

Perian Springs Press, November 2022

The composition ruptures, spills—causes teetering.

Not everyone will cooperate with effect.

*

Talk wanted to talk.

The subject of the story will say no—held hostage in an explanation.

*

There was no translation when it was sung.

The vaulted ceilings amplified a dirge for mortality, a lament for not coming back.

*

The chorus stayed very quiet, balanced on pins—mesmerizing vertically.

*

Lilacs became wind.

Confidentiality shattered.

*

Our watches are broken, and mourning

doves need more time on gray roofs.

*

The garden was betrayed for sorrow.

It can own you sometimes.

Despair has a resume a mile long.

The brain couldn’t be brought to obey.

*

Morning glories, striped violet and white, climbing the privacy wall

have closed without daylight.

The moonflowers preen white trumpet blooms, hallucinogenic.

Night smells like heliotrope.

*

The perpendicular houses were almost sleeping.

Apertures shut over aluminum ledges.

*

Voyeurism isn’t always creepy. She said

I wanted to see how someone else lives.

*

The middle-aged man counts his money in the freezer.

Ballet dancers don’t have one leg longer.

Spines lack perfect symmetry, vertebrae;

one’s backbone in ugly situations.

*

That was before the ethical fallout—before the police arrived. 

*

Maybe the prescribed pills were too many.

We’re trying to determine if we need

cranial magnets or touch.

*

Someone loved before less mattered.

Facts often act factually.

Notes needed footnotes to understand this many layers of longing—

but that might be a tomorrow thing.

*

Every fingerprint, eye, voice—a signature

from the beginning of time, the boy said to impress

the beaming girl twirling a trampoline.

That was when he had two arms, but no one explains.

*

Some of us liked each other.

Some of us pretended because it was easier.

Some of us wept behind picnic benches.

*

Lion masks jettisoned for sewer grates

after non-genetically engineered hors d’oeuvres.

Personas multiplied or eroding.

*

Small children know mostly none of this.

*

No one calls now that I’ve given up color.

No one talks about how we’ve misplaced the TV.

No one should panic.

We lost the oars.

Eternity might be a passageway of calcium.

*

This time wear black.

This time don’t say you’re sorry.

*

By the time you read this,

everything has become more estranged.

*

Music fills the strange room.

It’s not all that much.

*

Some days end before they begin.

We’re voting if this act is over.

The chorus is weighing in.

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DIRGE IX, erasure of triangles; angel dust, angling, achilles heel

The violins, piccolos, and violas converse intensely before the oboe interrupts—

flat-lines the tempo, mood shift.

The way a plane abandons sound.

***

The brass on hold; extraterrestrial high-pitched chanting.

Some sounds affect the crowd.

Some want to awkwardly crawl home.

***

Plato misspoke.

Wittgenstein misplaced his trousers.

Derrida butters his toast.

***

Pythagoras had an aversion to beans.

Euclid went mad.

Woolf vanished inside a sentence.

***

Jilted Sappho gifted her poetry to the ocean for fragment-stone.

Prufrock rolled up his trousers to heal self-inflicted scars.

Stein’s little dog went blind but still knew her.

***

Penelope finished her shroud for Odysseus, allowing the most handsome suitor to take down her silver hair.

Odysseus clung to Argos, believing he was a god.

Atlas said Enough.

***

The sun lost her fingers.

Mars no longer longed to be red.

Pluto’s father told him life isn’t fair.

***

Everyone was playing nice with their hands buried in dirt.

Pretending not to be bored.

Pretending the orchestra caged their suffering.

***

Canto jounces apple tree branches for fun.

Albee admits he is the one afraid.

Beckett ups the ante.

***

We’re watching you bandage your Achilles’ heel for tonight’s unraveling.

***

Ophelia’s long, copper hair flowing under daisies in a photograph.

***

Those aren’t the right clothes for a curbside funeral, but red suits you.

***

When the joker hit the keel, the captain sank too many packed in fishing for better chapters.

***

Some souvenirs aren’t recyclable because chaos reifies us on repeat.

***

Intentions can’t move triangles because triangles can’t move beliefs; curl methodology.

***

When you solve the enigma, it ceases to exist.

***

While we skirted the grid, the puppeteer cut all strings.

Master, why did you do this to me?

***

So you would dream.

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DIRGE II, the afterlife smells like ghosts; softened spectacle [7 dancers]

Everyone slows down and locks the rearview mirror when the ambulance arrives.

Demise crosshatches the body’s sleeves.

How funny I look without skin.

Lacking the memory of other cells, the cell is lonely.

Inconsolable, the violas slip the page.

A gamelan can be ordered on Amazon.

Rumors perforate.

No one called once I gave up color.

It was an exercise in inflection before I straggled here.

Metaphors and allegory atrophied.

I lost my hypothesis, so I opened the divine with a can opener.

I didn’t want to spoil.

A new language can’t be created overnight, and I was tired of being a pronoun.

Burdens design their own burdening.

The one who overdosed stopped looking for God.

There were questionable assumptions.

The cornfield collected us in silk.

Sleep doesn’t even know.

Idiosyncrasies reproduce exponentially.

I’m stranger than before.

He said you’re a sheet of glass in a crowded city.

He said bring the small turtle because it knows how to hide.

If we see each other at the border, don’t say anything.

War can’t explain daylight.

It’s your right not to watch.

It’s more difficult to play dead than you think.

Tell the children they’re statues but can’t sculpt their own until the game is over, until they return to school.

Tell tomorrow you’re not as selfish as yesterday.   

Protect the unrolled parchment from incendiary material.

Things here don’t hurt so much.

Grief is a different color, and sadness doesn’t own a house.

Strangely, one arranges another.

I raised my hand to ask questions, but everyone left for happy hour, somewhere less confusing.

I’ve forgotten how to spell.

No one will find me with autocorrect.

The field of dandelions is clover—the lover, over.

Events take place in ellipses.

The afterlife smells like ghosts, an echo in syntax’s wire cage.

The ghosts advise, go slow down the corridor, climb over your missing feet.

The day job had the subject scathed, losing stage.

Here you don’t need your stolen teeth, a lucky rabbit’s foot, all that trigonometry.

There were kinetic misunderstandings—a fallout of composure.

You should have changed the batteries in the fire alarms.

Someone more qualified will complete the laborious paper chain.

There will be semantic delay.

Plato, what did Socrates say?

Hemlock was his choice.

We’re going somewhere—trains with no passengers.

The breathtaking panoramic scenery—volumes of photos no one prints or saves.

At the next stop someone might say something like Bedouins read stones, pitched stairs escalate, or the mannequins split our dreams.

Leading a camel to water doesn’t make anyone noble.

Even if we sing in languages we can’t comprehend.

At the next stop I might feel like going home.

At the next house, I may mean everything I don’t remember.

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DIRGE VII, ablation [1 dancer]

I cut my heart out with a kitchen knife

And threw it in the sea at high tide

because it no longer served me.

I built a boat from gnarled driftwood

to look for it–

but it was plunged in the undertow.

I tread the breachway at low tide

praying to find it

sheathed in hazel seaweed.

Gather it back—

the flopping purple jellyfish

hardly pumping–

let its ventricles dry

in the distant winter sun.

At dusk, I placed it  

in the music box the wind broke.

All through night in hushed tones

I implore it

to twirl the miniature ballerina

splayed.

Come back–

I didn’t mean to run

the car in the garage.

I just might need you–

hinging breath for sound.

Ashamed, I evade the salt pond’s

shimmering mirror

in half-light—

setting the clock back

to another twilight   

when someone held me

against starlight.

Nothing is forever except forever.

Laughter might disappear

the abyss between y 

and z, the ending.

It’s time, finally, to sit

the ghosts down

and tell them everything.

They are afraid for me.

It became so difficult

to breathe.

To find things worth finding.

Then the Book was returned to me.

Crimson stones in my chest

became pages.

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from DIRGE: a ballet for 13 dancers [fragment- hymns]

The planes flew through your chest at high speed because someone called you sky, and you wanted to believe.

Ghost planes with no one onboard except robots counting dollhouse packages—or elegant military birds.

No one had the heart to tell you that light didn’t need us.

The field of yellow buttercups indicated we were all lying.

You’ll remember the hieroglyph tablets, black-plumed ibises.

Ideas of a shining place weren’t imagined in a day.

The afterworld might be a softened spectacle.

I was memorizing something to tell you, but it fell apart.

There were intricate ways to express one thing but no method to account for everything.

The lecture on neuroplasticity didn’t explain why subjects stopped looking for dimensions without air.

Deities should then be removed from the book in the form of a question.

Some of us were living in square houses even though we were circles.

The traveling philosopher reassured things would get better before he and his triangular suitcase fell off the grid.

He didn’t charge us, didn’t covet our cloaks.

His mother was a soprano who died singing an aria to a sold-out audience; she was a circle, he said.     

The director wept for a year, a small ocean.

I haven’t listened to your messages because I can’t remember which room holds objects, what should stay private, how to spell.   

The chorus agrees I’m not sleepwalking underwater but swimming through watercolors without sound.

Peacock blue to yellow, I’ll swim to green, regenerate enthusiasm, a missing organ.

Sleep doesn’t always give back dream.

When you come back, we’ll tango in a slow-motion montage, knowing love isn’t a small boat on a reservoir of promises.

More 911 calls, donations of blood, identifications.   

Heartbreak ensconces eternity.

You missed your appointment with the person who was supposed to help you.

Fatigued from sky, aloof falcons, desperate for a new paradigm.

At night you hold me against the river’s rush and wash my tangled hair.

The chorus circumscribes us, chanting everything could be temporal, even a sequence of fragment-hymns.

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from DIRGE [amplifications]

The composition ruptures, slips.

We staple, glue, and sew, so there is teetering.

Parts of the brain won’t cooperate.

The subject of the story will say no.

Mourning doves need more time.

Talk wanted to talk about itself.

Lilacs became wind.

Confidentiality shattered.

The garden was betrayed for amplified sadness.

It can own you sometimes.

Some of us liked each other.

Some of us wept behind picnic benches.

Voyeurism isn’t always creepy.

The ethical fallout made us very tired.

Prescribed pills were maybe too many.

Spines really have no symmetry.

Seesaws can’t even the score.

Dancers don’t have one leg shorter.

Someone loved before less mattered.

Facts often act factually.

Notes needed notes to understand.

No one should panic.

All the seats recline.

Eager trained dogs dig for survivors.

The moon weeping between arms separates the dead.

Small children know mostly none of this.

Morbidity can only go on so long if we are lucky.

There are no homesick clouds.

No one calls without color.

We’ve forgotten the TV.

By the time you hear this, everything has switched.

We lost the oars.

Eternity might be a corridor of trees.

We’ve voting if this act is over.

On the next page, everyone is gone.

This time wear black.

This time don’t say you’re sorry.

Piano music will fill the strange room with scales.

It’s not all that much.

Some days end before they begin.

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DIRGE: a ballet for 13 dancers [prelude with cellos]

1 dancer [hazel]

I slept in the Book of the Dead and woke with parchment scrolls blooming tired magnolias from my unhinged mouth.

Lugubrious cellos attempted to climb me back to the mud-encrusted, brick floor–but I panicked.

When my thinking can trace some semblance of surface, I might explain.

Some will pigeonhole verbose.

If I erase, the Dreams of the Dead multiply.

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THE FEATHERS OF WINGS DESIRE THUMBRINTS

Distance throws points pointing to the Subject [of Yellow Feathers].

Lost in the sun—a rogue magician feeds finches from a torn sleeve.

This is where the owl lives at night with baby bats after the crickets and tree frogs’ duet plummets.

In the woods, there are no hands to flutter moonbeams.

In summer sunlight, trees arching under cyan blue are liquid stained-glass.

During late-afternoon brutal heat, the weeping willows drink the pond’s moss surface.

Just out of school for summer, impatient children try to catch tadpoles in butterfly nets.

Camouflaged in the oak’s wishbone trunk, the egret waits for the fish that are thirsty for air to catch the exterior like words.

Scientists claim that without a human cerebral cortex, fish can’t cry, but poets knows that their tears fill the oceans.

Yellow snapdragons are wilting in the garden because we’ve forgotten.

Buddha’s terracotta bowed chin and left ear are eternally injured by winter because we can’t find the proper glue. 

The Knight’s Suitcase of Watches drowns his Doppelganger backwards.

Many times the dying want to let go.

If the debacle had been planned properly, we could still do lunch.

There should be a word for someone who blows up consecutive bridges with one damp match.

Fire can be satisfying like a fact.

When you’re looking in the wrong places, it’s time to stop looking.

Compulsive white lying can alleviate boredom [not to mention major hassles], preempt further questioning, and hone the art of fabrication.   

The recently-widowed old man counts his money in the freezer.

Someone who might be me watches him through binoculars.

This time, it’s best for all subjected parties to become fluent in silence.

No one else needs to review your emotional scorecard.

No one fathoms the song I bleed when I relinquish windows.

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[THE AFTERLIFE SMELLS LIKE GHOSTS]

I opened the metaphysical with a can opener.

[The puzzle, magical.]

I don’t want to spoil.

[Delay denied the last dandelions.]

I wrote 87 emails but couldn’t hit SEND.

[Events took place in brackets.]

I felt your face with feathers.

[You are stranger than before.]

Gravity shifts the jaw line.

[The afterlife smells like ghosts.]

Hands pry the mouth.

[We atrophy fatigued metaphors.]

Rumors perforate.

[Burdens design their own pain.]

There were kinetic misunderstandings.

[Twenty seven lighters are ready to go.]

War explains daylight.

[It is your right not to watch.]

Google, an odd life coach.

[Time passes.]

The sculpture breaks my dreams.

[Leading a camel to water doesn’t make you noble.]

I mean everything I don’t remember.

[
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